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Lecture to discuss implicit attitudes in tort law

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This year's Monsanto Lecture at Valparaiso University School of Law will focus on a 7th Circuit case on transporting toxic liquid and implicit attitudes with regards to tort law.

Professors Jon Hanson, Harvard Law School, and Douglas Kysar, Yale Law School, will use Indiana Harbor Belt R.R. Co. v. American Cyanamid Co., 916 F.2d 1174 (7th Cir. 1990), in their March 19 lecture "Abnormally Dangerous: Inequality Dissonance and the Making of Tort Law." In Indiana Harbor, authored by Judge Richard Posner, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a shipper of a hazardous chemical is held to a negligence standard for the consequences of a spill during a shipment, and that strict liability is only imposed when the high degree of risk associated with the activity can't be eliminated through due care.

The professors will examine what might explain why courts sometimes prefer a negligence standard when their logic could easily have led them to a strict liability alternative by using behavioral science.

There is growing evidence that the reasons people give for their behavior and decisions are rarely causal and are often confabulatory. The field of social cognition, for instance, has demonstrated through countless experiments that "implicit attitudes" and "implicit motives," which lie outside the purview of introspection, play a far more significant role in shaping our attitudes, ideologies, and behavior than most people realize or care to acknowledge.

The professors will discuss whether an understanding of those implicit processes might help explain why the Circuit Court held that the activity of transporting highly toxic and flammable chemicals through residential areas wasn't abnormally dangerous and thus not subject to strict liability.

The lecture begins at 4 p.m. CDT in Wesemann Hall, 656 S. Greenwich St. It is free and open to the public and one unit of CLE credit will be offered. A form will be available for self-reporting.

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

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